Thursday, May 31, 2007

Creel- it seemed like a good idea at the time

(...and how I wet my pants)

I arrived in Hidalgo del Parral at nightfall, always the best time to arrive in a city and eventually found an expensive hotel for $18. It would have been $14 but I opted for the telly option. I watched a fairly trashy movie where the happless high school kids get chased around the countryside by a psycho in a Kenworth Freightliner, the main truck you see here. I couldn`t help wondering how it even caught up with them in the first place, these things are usually doing 15mph crawling down hills.
Anyway, I digress. There didn`t seem to be too much happening in Creel and as I`d splashed out on watching that rubbish movie the previous night, I need to save some cash so its off to the camp site for me. The site is split into two, on one side the cabañas and on the other, the RV parkground. I can only see two groups, an Icelandic couple in a German registered truck and some Americans in the biggest RV I`ve ever seen, actually a bit more like a rock stars tourbus. While I was attenpting to set up my tent on the concrete-like soil, a couple of American kids came over and offer to help. They asked me if I was a `survival guy`, a strange question but I replied, not really, I`m more of a hotel guy. I declined their offer of help as that would have just been embarassing and a couple of minutes later, a woman with the rock star tourbus invited me to join them round their campfire later.

When I do join them, there are about 12 Americans from New Mexico including one guy in a hi-tec wheelchair. It turned out that Richard had been in a bus accident 5 years ago and the driver went under a low bridge taking the roof off. He wasn`t actually injured but the whiplash paralysed him from the neck down. He`s an incredibly astute guy though and has a house building business back home. Their families used to do a lot of camping and touring so they bought the huge bus with part of their settlement. The other couple were from Iceland and have been going for over a year and were heading south in their German reg overland vehicle, complete with sand ladders, now that would be handy! I`m sometimes pretty envious of these guys as they can more or less stop anywhere and sleep for free. I had thankfully managed to source some beers in town so I enjoyed an evening round the campfire listening to stories of UFO`s (they`d all seen some), Mexico and travelling in general.

The next morning I set off to do the road to Batopilas from Creel. The first 48 miles are tarmac, then you take the turn off onto the dirt road. From the turn off, its maybe about an hour till you get to the edge of the canyon and the road starts to zig-zag downwards at an alarming rate. The views are just stunning though, hopefuly some of my photos might do it justice. I tried filming again but it was so bumpy, you`d probably be sick watching it. At the bottom, the road then runs along by the river, cutting in and out following the canyon sidewalls. At one point I lost it on a bend, coming round too fast the rear decided it was going to carry on and went over the edge of the sharp camber. Thankfully it was the wall edge and not the ´edge´ edge and I ended up with slightly wonky handlebars and a bit of a pain where I landed on my keys.

Finally I made it to Batopilas at around 2.30pm and it had only taken me 4 hours to go 90 miles. Now I just had to turn around and do all it again as I`d left all my stuff back at the campsite. I did bring some supplies like water, spare underware and toothbrush etc just incase it took longer. I say I brought water, but the 4L bottle cracked when I`d tightend the straps to fix my rucksack to the bike and about 3.5L of it had leaked out, all over my spare pants!

On the way back, I bumped into an American guy who I`d met on the tarmac road earlier with a brand new Dakar GS650 with Al Jesse luggage that he`d just bought in the states and was bring back to Mexico where he now lived. He`d said he didn`t have time to do this road but must have changed his mind and decided to do it. I think he might have regretted it though as when I saw him again, he was now carrying one of his panniers on the back seat. Apparently he`d also had a spill and had wrenched off one of the panniers. Oops!

It was a good job I booked ahead

The next day, I decided to leave, first visiting the canyon mirador at Divisadero and then taking the long way round to Los Mochis via the Basaseachic Falls but while at the mirador, I find out that there actually is a dirt road going all the way to Choix, with tarmac from there till Los Mochis. They say it will take 10hours and its already 11.30am so best get a move on. I haven`t a clue where I`ll end up tonight but I`m always up for a wee adventure so grab a few essentials like water (making sure not to burst the bottle) and chili chips and I`m set.


The road follows the railroad for a while and I even stand and watch as the famous scenic train passes below me. I also see a group of about 10 quad bikers out a tour having their lunch by a tree lined river. Its all good and the scenery is just fantastic.

The dirt road decides to change all that and as hairpin after hairpin come up, I`m quickly thinking that maybe the other road might have been a better choice. I should point out that the road surface is not actually dirt or a nice compacted gravel. Nope, its more like someone has poured several inches of plaster dust all over the road which gives the front wheel absolutely nothing to grip in bends, of which there are a lot. I reach a small town by around 4pm where the locals advise it will be another 4-5 hours just to Choix. I`m determined to make it there tonight despite getting a little lost now and then. As my map of Mexico is next to useless at this scale and my GPS is no longer powering up, I can now only use it for short periods to save the remaining battery to double check I`m not going miles off course. The road is a seemingly endless succesion of hairpins, on nearly everly one the bike feels like its going to go its own way. The surface is pretty horrendous too with potholes appearing every time I glance away from it, resulting in two blown fork seals. Its incredibly tiring although everytime I stop to look at my mountainous suroundings, it takes my breath away which makes up for all the pain.

I see the next small town is only 10kms away as the crow flies on the GPS, its 5pm so I time how long it takes to get there. An hour. I`m covered in dust and sweat when I am stopped at a military checkpoint who want to have a rummage in my panniers. While there, a guy in a 4x4 is also stopped and gives me a cold beer, he must have read my bloody mind! I stow it away to consume shortly down the road but before I do that, something is making a bit of a noise at the rear end of the bike. I stop to find one of my panniers half off. No, no! Don`t tell me one of the screw mounts has disappeared! I check to see and find its nearly off but still there- time for a cold beer and a look at the mountains I`d say!
I finally roll into Choix at around 8pm having covered approximately 140miles that day. I have some water thats now too warm to drink and the tosser of a hotel owner won`t let me put it in his fridge. Theres a tv in the room which doesn`t work and the wash hand basin has been nailed to the wall but I don`t really care. Theres a cold shower and a bed but not before another cold beer!

Oooh what a Pickle in the Wild Wild West

After leaving Mexico City, we headed west via Morelia, Chapala, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. I got into trouble in Chapala for ´running a red light´ (cue ´Breaking the Law´by the mighty Judas Priest). Actually I did it twice at the same crossing and the poor copper there was frantically blowing his whistle at me when I didn´t stop both times. He caught up with me as I was waiting on michelle who went the other way (out of embarrassment probably) and it turned out he had more or less put out an APB on me in the little town (I´m not really that hard to miss though). He wanted my licence to book me for a ticket but I started arguing with him, shouting ´So you don´t like tourists then? Would you rather no tourists came here anymore?´etc (it was a very touristy sort of place). He didn´t really like me but I was in the mood for a good arguement. He ended up letting me off with a warning so I just said ´good´and took my fake licence back. The ex-pat english guy who had stepped to translate suggested that normally people express their grattitide and shake the officer´s hand when they are let off. Like f%ck!

Michelle is off to Baja early to get chatted up by Mexican blokes and American OAPs and I`m off to Creel and the Copper Canyon, the place where HU has its annual meet in these parts and will head over to Baja when I`m done. First I head to Durango via the Spine of the Devil, where the land falls off either side of the road. Its a pretty nice easy route to ride which I make complicated by trying to film some of the riding on my digital camera. I duct tape my mini tripod onto the headlamp protector mounts which seems to do the trick and after a few trials and I have some not too bad footage.

In Durango, theres some sort of parade going on in town in the evening. Dozens of Kenworth Freightliners acting as floats with, I`m guessing, the local school kids all dressed up in a variety of fantastic costumes and sets. The whole town seems to have turn up which might go some way to explaining why I couldn`t find anywhere to buy a beer. Not that I`m an alchoholic or anything, its just that if I don`t drink beer every day, I get very cranky.

Durango as you may or may not know, is home to some western film sets which is due in part to the wild west scenery all around the state of Durango. Even The Duke, John Wayne himself had an estate here which his kids let fall into ruin after he died. I ride out to the one in Chupaderes having somehow ridden past the one nearby in Villa del Oeste (Michelle would never do that, she never misses anything). It only takes five minutes to wander the dilapidated streets with the rickety `saloon` and hotel. Thinking that I can probably take the little dirt road behind the town back to Villa del Oeste rather than get back on the main road, I wobble off along the track. I get maybe a kilometer or two outside the town when I come across a dried up riverbed disecting the dirt track. I get off to have a cursory glance and think `yep, that`ll be a piece of piss` and get back on the bike. I gingerly edge my way into the riverbed only to find quite deep sand, something I neglected to think might actually be a problem. The bike is now going nowhere fast and in a matter of seconds, HB burries himself up to his nuts in the deep sand.

Luggage off

Tactical move

Its the middle of the day, very hot, dusty and there´s no one around. I calmly take off all the luggage including, ironically, the new TKC80 I`ve been lugging since Medellin and think this might not have happened had I fitted it yet. I push the bike over onto its side to get it out of the sand and somehow upright it. I plan on riding along the riverbed, turning around and going back the way I came but it doesn`t happen, the nearly bald rear just gets buried again. Again, I lay the bike on its side and turn it around to face the way I just came but this time I just can`t seem to lift it, the full tank not really helping matters. At this stage, I `m thinking I might be in a bit of a pickle when I suddenly see a group of three police 4x4`s coming my way along the track in a cloud of dust and about 10 coppers get out. Its quite a surreal sight and unbelievably they`d actually come out to give me a bollocking as they thought I was going to camp and didn`t want me to start a bush fire, awww. They stopped mid-bollocking and were just looking at me like some kind of loony with my bike on its side and luggage all over the place including a Bolivian Charanga. I found it very hard to keep a straight face and after directing a couple of them to give me a hand, in a matter of minutes I was helped out of the riverbed and back on the correct road. Phew, at least that wasn`t embarrassing.

Er, thanks guys!

Villa del Oeste turned out to be a theme park tourist trap with an entrance fee and directions on where to park the bike (just how did I ride past it?). The main street it has to be said was in a lot better nick than the last place, however each building appeared to be a restaurant or eatery and in place of the cowboys horses munching on nosebags, there were groups of tourists munching away on tacos. I wandered around the buildings but didn`t find it too exciting. I guess if I knew what films had used this set, it might make it a bit more interesting. At around 3pm, they started one of those street scenes, with cowboys, a sheriff and some can-can girls but I left halfway through, partly because I didn`t understand a word of it and partly because I really needed to get up to Hidalgo del Parral (where Pancho Villa was assassinated if you`re interested).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mexico City

Garry, who lives in Mexico City, via the wonderful Horizons Unlimited, kindly offered to put us up (or put up with us) for a few days and show us around town. Luckily Garry is also a biker and has ample parking for 4 bikes at his place to the south west of the centre. We spent a couple of days sight-seeing in Mexico City and I was more than pleasantly surprised. The centre of town has some really great buildings and it´s pretty easy to get around using the metro system however even so, it did take the best part of 2 hours to get back to Garrys workplace as you also need to take a bus from the metro which grinds to a halt in the congestion that never seems to let up.

Mexico City

Garry also took me and HB to the BMW garage (one of the many there but the best one) where they took a look at my gearbox problem where I´ve been having difficulty changing from 1st to 2nd). I was expecting the worst when the said they´d need to open it up to take a look and it might take a month to get any parts from Germany. There are parts in the US but I´d need to order them myself and there would be no warranty. Well thats BMW for you. Anyway, after a quick look, the head mechanic said he was 90% certain it was a simple loose connection with the gear pedal and with that in mind, I gave him a list of other things to do to the bike including valves, throtle body synch and cleaning my totally filthy air filter. The next day, when we picked up the bike, the total bill was an unbelivable $75. I do belive Garry was (and probably still is) sick as a dog! When ever I visit a BMW place at home, I might as well give them 250 quid up front just to get them started.

HB getting a good seeing to

We met up with Garry´s son, Lloyd and the four of us went to visit the pyramds to the west of the city. Garry is an old hand at this place so instead of parking in the first car park like everyone else, we park up in the second and go see the two big pyramids. After that, we drive back to the first cark park to see the museum and save ourselves a 4km walk. And thanks to Lloyd, we were also enlightened by a visit to the El Santos coffee shop, which is owned by the gimp-mask wearing wrestling ledgend´s son. On sunday after tinkering with the KLR just for a change, we were treated to a roast lamb dinner with proper roast tatties and everything, fantastic!

El Santos!

On monday, our host was again kind enough to see us out of town because lets face it, I wouldn´t stand a chance of finding my way out of the city. We were taken out to another beemer place on the outskirts of town (just how many BMW garages are there here?) where we said Muchos Gracias to Garry for looking after us so well over the last few days and headed westwards.

Cheers Garry for a top weekend!

Quesadillia making!

And lets not forget Layla!


After nearly 20,000 miles on this trip, I had so far managed to avoid being hit by anything much larger than an uncoordinated bird however all that changed as I was pulling into Acapulco. Skimming up the outside of a very congested line of traffic, I could see it happening before it happened if you know what I mean. The VW Beetle taxi driver makes a movement that stongly suggests he is about to pull a very quick U-turn right in front of me, and indeed he does. I heave the bike over to the left to try and avoid contact with the front left corner of the car now immediately in front of me however it is too late.

Crunch! It actually doesn´t feel as bad as I am expecting and when I open my eyes again, I am a bit further down the road but somehow I didn´t go down. I look around at the taxi, the driver of which appears to be in a state of shock as he´s still sitting in the line of traffic, however the best part of his front wing now appears to be ripped and dented to buggery. My rather solid Al Jesse metal panniers seemed to have caused more damage to his car than it did to my bike. And so with a ´see ya, sucker´expression to the driver, I shot off through the traffic leaving him wondering how the hell a bike just smashed up his car.

Speaking to an American guy who lives in Acapulco while I was having breakfast in a cafe the following morning, I ask what I really should see in Acapulco, to which he says ´oh, ya gotta see the cliff divers, they´re really something´. Well, I actually saw them the previous night, and yes, they were quite good, so I tried a different line of questioning.

´Er, so are there any decent bars around here I should maybe try?´

´Hmm, well let me see now. Well, I don´t know if you´re gay or not, but there´s some really great gay bars here in town´

Right, just fuck off.

Leaving town at sunrise

Mexican Beachlife
I took the road south from Oacaca to Zipolite, a beach town on the coast. It turns out that this place is actually a nude beach (like I didn´t know) but before you get all excited, the goods on display were pretty horiffic.

Ahh, nice scenery, but er, wait just a second, what´s this...?



Getting there, I got totally soaked crossing the mountains but was totally dry by the time I got to the bottom thanks to the intense heat. I also had a bit of animal fun on the way (no not that kind) by getting hit in the side of my helmet by a bird and nearly running over a 1m long snake and a rather large iguana. I stopped off for the night in a cabaña place called Solstice for $10 a night. Very nice little place by the beach. After a wander about along the beach and averting my eyes, I bumped into Ceasar from San Diago (from the previous hostal in Oaxaca and he of the voluminous snoring) so we ended up having a pretty good night playing fooseball (?) and finding the only decent bar in the place.

It was actually very quiet there so instead of hanging around the following day, I set off to Puerto Escondido, about an hour up the coast and checked into the Mayflower hostel for $9 for a dorm room. This town is quite famous for having the longest breaking surf anywhere in the world called the Mexican Pipeline though you`d have to be mad to go anywhere near it. The waves were absolutely huge and the beach had red `no swimming`flags up so I gave the surfing a miss. The hostal was a very friendly place so I ended up meeting all sorts of folk there though surprisingly, this town was also pretty dead at night apart from a few drunk locals who seemed to be trying to pick a fight with me and Andy ´from London but from Vienna´. God knows how he got so pissed drinking Sol.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


It took a couple of days to get to Oaxaca so I had to stop off at Juchitan for a night. En route, I got stopped at one of the numerous army checkpoints around which I assume are set up to keep the army out of trouble. I was kind of tired and a bit hungover so during an inspection of my panniers, the boss man asked `drugs?`to which I was sorely tempted to say `aye, a wee dab o speed wid be just the ticket man` to quote Spud but decided to keep my trap shut as they had a lot of guns and not a lot of humour. I was kind of pissed off I had to pay $15 for a room with a toilet without a toilet seat but there weren`t many other cheeper places that I could find with parking. Great street food in the square here though, I reckon my sister would approve as virtualy all Mexican food seems to come with chili.

Monte Alban- nice but not quite Tikal

So from Juchitan, it was an easy 1/2 day ride through some rather pretty scenery. I really enjoy the scenery so far, the only thing that spoils it are the Topes (speed bumps) which are placed every 10ft or so. The first hostal I tried from the book had closed down but I eventually found a decent place (the name sounds like a plate of ice cream) with some form of bike parking. I spent a couple of nights here in a dorm room which wasn`t so bad once I took some sleeping pills and shoved my ear plugs in a bit more to drown out the snoring. I visited the ruins at Monte Alban, a short distance out of town which were nice enough but didn`t really compare to the ones at Tikal. Oaxaca is a pretty nice place and apart from the severe downpour on the second night but it was entertaining to watch the students parading outside after breaking up for the year and then disolving into a fist fight later.

El Studentes

Saturday, May 12, 2007

San Cristobal De Las Casas (or the home of Mexican Ska music)

Having enjoyed a nice ride into SCDLC, I found myself a pretty crappy place to stay but it did have secure parking and cost $8, but unfortunately I was the only one staying there which wasn´t too exciting really. After a wander around town, I checked out a few places that had live music, falling in to one by accident when I heard the band setting up, The first band on was a salsa band in the Santana vein with a fantastic rythm section (my mate Cal would definately approve) with some pretty neat acoustic guitar playing. Next up was a local Ska/punk band who were just great, top notch rythms again and realy great bass playing. After these guys finished, I had a ticket for a free drink in a place next door which also had some music going on, it turned out to be the first bands great percussion guy but this time on drums, while the bass player was this really tiny guy which made the bass look huge, quite something to watch!

Crawling in at 1.30am and waking the overweight owner to come down in his underpants to let me in made up for him telling me I had helmet hair when I arrived.

Smallest bass player in the world *

* probably

Friday, May 11, 2007


After the border schenannigans, I headed to Palenque while enjoying the lovely new Mexican scenery. I tried several places for accommodation, the first dorm I looked at was incredibly depressing and empty. Not feeling like commiting suicide just yet, I eventually opted for a room for $15, more than my normal budget but this one had cable tv, a toilet (with a toilet seat!) and good Lord, a swimming pool. I had quite a pleasant evening bobbing about in the pool with my beer and chatting to some of the other tourists there, some of whom convinced me I really should include Mexico City in my plans so I think I just might.

The following day, I set off to find the immigration office just outside Palenque however after speaking to several of the officials there, I was told it was `no problemo` and it wasn`t really neccessary. Hmm, we`ll see about that when I try and leave the country. After that, I set off to have some more water-based fun at the Misol Ha waterfall and Agua Azul, a few km´s up the road and en route to San Cristobal del las Casa, my next stop. The Misol Ha waterfall was not too shabby though I only had a brief stop there however I spent a good few hours at Agua Azul, it was a pretty nice day and the water was just so clear and refreshing in the heat. Its basically a nice, clean river where you can swim and float downstream but with the added bonus of stunning waterfalls and beautiful scenery.

Well it beats working for a living!

Viva Mexico!

Taking the long dirt road south and west of Flores, I headed in the direction of a border with Mexico called Bethel. The guy at the garage said the dirt road would take two hours, perfectly timed to coincide with lunchtime for all the country`s officials so I made sure I gave it my best shot. I made it in an hour (Grrr, do I sound like Strikingviking?)

Arriving at the immigration office (well actually, speeding past it, then backtracking a bit) I got my passport exit stamp in a couple of minutes but there was no aduana though. Hmm, I´ll deal with that later. Outside, a mouthy local started offering the use of his boat to cross the border river for $40. I didn`t actually have $40 on me and managed to talk him down to $20. And with our agreement sealed, he then shouted over at what I took to be his dopey son to bloody well get on with it. The place where the boats are is up the riverm about 10kms north of the immigration office and when I got there, I found a wide river with loose pebble beaches on either side. Lurvely. I got there before the son, so I started walking over to a couple of other guys with similar boats to check them out when the son suddenly screeched to a halt in the pickup. He had got someone else to go and get the boat and a couple of minutes later, a young lad of around 15 showed up in the motor launch. So with the help of these two and another kid who looked about 8, this motley crew set about getting Herr Bertie into the launch which was no mean feat in the heat of the day (mid 40`s).

Pishing sweat, we finally managed to get the beast up the ramp and into the boat and following one of my shortest ever boat trips, we arrived in Mexico. Just one thing, pull Bertie backwards up the planks and get him on to the nice, loose pebble beach. This time, it proved a little tougher so we enlisted the help of several more locals to finish the job. That done, I paid up and repacked the bike on the beach. Wayhay I thought, Mexico, kicking up the side stand and pulling the bike upright, it went straight over the other way and landed on its right side. For the first time, I was actually glad of the smirking spectators whom I quickly enlisted to get the bike upright once again. Wayhay Mexico etc. And more carefully than normal, I edged my way along the pebbles till I hit the actual road.

I found the Mexican immigration office quite quickly, bloody hell, I thought, this is a bit easy. After parking up and walking over to the office, documents in hand, I found what I can only describe as being very similar to the vacated offices I have been to so many times in my line of work to carry out a Dilapidation inspection. Rubbish lying around, old bits of knackered furniture and out of date calenders on the wall. Except this one had a mattress on the floor. There was a scruffy, unshaved looking man (like I can talk) sitting behind the window desk munching on mangoes and making a right mess of the desk.

"Er, Aduana y immigration?" I proffered.
"Si, claro" was the reply with bits of mango going all over the place.
" Em, no, esta Aduana aqui? I tried again.
"Si, tranquillo, tranquillo"

Usually when people tell me to be tranquillo, I want to punch them and seeing as this guy was clearly mad as a hatter, I went across the road to one of the touristy restaurants. I´d seen a few tourists zooming about the river in boats so I know there must be some sort of official Immigration office around here somewhere. Looking like I`d been sprayed with yellow dust from head to foot and then given a liberal covering of sweat, I walked into the restaurant full of smartly dressed, lunching tourists to speak to someone who might actually know what they were talking about.
"Si, si, esta" said the waitress pointing across the road to the building I`d come from.


As I was walking over to office, a car pulled up outside it and a smartly dressed OFFICIAL looking person got out and went into the office but before I could even get near to the window again, a huge tourist bus full of Germans marched out and went straight to the window where the official started stamping every one of their passports. Bloody marvelous! I sat on my bike giving each of the tourists the evil eye (behind my sunglasses though).

I hate every last one of you

When he was finally finished with the tourists, I quickly lept up to the window, just in case he decided to shut for a second dinner or something. Amazingly I got my passport stamp sorted easily enough however he confirmed that there was no Aduana there and to try in Pelanque. He went outside to chat with the madman who was now picking limes off a tree, and after pissing up against his own office wall, he disappeared in his car.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Guatemala- Lava, Lakes & Ruins
We ended up pretty much racing through Honduras and El Salvador in a couple of day so nothing to report other than the usual tediousness of several border crossings, including the immigration to El Salvador where it was decided that my bikes engine number didn`t match that in the V5 document so they delayed giving me the temporary import by 3 1/2 hours. While waiting for my paperwork, a Russian called Vladimere or something screached to a halt outside on a new GS1200Adv. It turned out he had left Moscow in October, popped down to South Africa via Spain, shipped the bike over to Buenos Aires and this was him now in El Salvador only 6 months later. He also carried a rather large machette on the bike with which he would weild and shout several angry "fuck off"s to the numerous kids hanging about at border crossings and anybody else that got in his way. Each to his own I say.

Anyway, the first real stop in Guatemala was Antigua, a pretty colonial town in the south of the country, known for its cool architecture and abundance of Spanish schools but we had to cross through Guatemala city, one of the most congested places I`ve ever had the misfortune to ride through. In Antigua though, we holed up for a few days in one school which doubled as a hostel and had secure parking. I really enjoyed Antigua, its got a very relaxed feel about it and its also where I had my 37th (groan) birthday. We hiked up Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano one afternoon which turned out to be quite exciting. As there were numerous tour groups up there, when the lava flow decided to alter its course and start flowing towards us, there was kind of nowwhere to run as the best path was pretty much blocked with people taking photos further down. If you`re ever been up an active volcan, you`ll know how hot the ground under your feet gets and some stupid sods had turned up with flip flops on. Fortunately, the crowd eventually managed to get out the bloody way and nobody ended up with red hot lava on their shoes. It was pretty incredible to see the hot stuff flowing by that close I can tell you.

I also had to get a new spring fitted to my rear Ohlins shock as the bike sags by about 9cms fully loaded when it should only sag by around 4cm. After countles emails and phone calls, I finally got through to the right person in the BMW shop in Guatemala city. Resigned to a day of horrible riding through solid traffic again, I set off to find the shop in the heart of the city, well ok, Zona 4. Eventually I fought my way through the frankly bloody awful, solid traffic and found the right place. They were very helpful giving me several options and I opted for the 180 rated spring. The technician pointed out my rather bent lower bolt which connects the shock to the swing arm, apparently this would be caused by the shock bottoming out rather severely and having no where else to go- oops! A couple of hours later, I was heading back to Antigua with a new shock fitted and feeling about 5cms taller.

After Antigua, we headed off to Lake Atitlan and somehow got separated in leaving Antigua. I assumed Michelle had headed on towards the lake so I set off to catch up while she thought I was still somewhere in Antigua. When I arrived in Panajachel by the lake, I checked my emails only to discover Michelle was still in Antigua! I got checked in to the hotel and got some chores done by which time, Michelle eventually turned up. The following day, we decided to go on a tour of the lake, the boat stopping on three of the villages around the lake but to be honest, by the 2nd one, things were looking quite similar so with the thought of hanging around a 3rd village for another hour, we and the rest of the boats passengers jumped into the back of a pickup truck heading back to Panajachel.

Our last port of call in Guatmala was Tikal, the mayan ruins to the north of the country which meant a rather long days ride. The guy in the Beemer shop had given me a route and although he mentioned part of it was unpaved, I found that section pretty tough going, well it had been a while! Trying to overtake trucks in a cloud of dust on the narrow dirt road proved to be more than enough excitement, several times I nearly came acropper as I litteraly ran out of road to overtake. With much relief, we finally pulled in to Flores, the small island town in Lake something or other. I knew we`d need to be up early to get to the ruins before it got A. busy and B. ridiculously hot so it was a total joy when the alarm went at 5am. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the ruins, many of them are about 60m high and stick out from the trees like pre-columbian skyscrapers. Apparently, if you were a rather big cheese in the Mayan world, you got one of these bad boys plopped on top of you- respect!

We´d talked about doing our own thing for a while and Michelle wants to go and see Belize while I fancy getting on and in to Mexico, plus as she`s already backpacked around Mexico so it seems like a good place to commence our own mini adventures for a bit. So with a fond farewell, we headed off in our respective directions, Michelle towards the Belize border and me to a pretty obscure river crossing into Mexico. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Stopping in La Cruz just before the Nicaraguan border, who should we bump in to but none other than Bob, THE official Smellybiker and Angie his girlfriend who´s not smelly. After a few beers (where after about 15 attempts, I finally managed to do the ´open the bottle with the bic lighter trick) we agreed to cross the border together the following day. The crossing actually turned out to be relativelly painless apart from a dying printer which delayed the proceedings somewhat and the bizzare $1 ´taxes´once we´d crossed, we were in Nicaragua.

Bob, `avin a fag

We stopped off in San Juan del Sur for a couple of days. Its a bit of a surfers town by the sea (well, obviously!) and we booked up for a days surfing at the beach about 10kms away. The following morning, we set off in the battered transit van with the other ´dudes´. I'd like to say that after my surfing lesson in Peru, it was a breeze. But it wasn´t. I got fed up not being able to get up on the board inthe morning so I gave up around lunch time but by the afternoon after a bit of a break, I somehow managed to get on the board a few times. Ok, there were no style points but I was quite pleased with myself. Next surf stop- Mexico!

Just another San Juan sunset

Hmm, this is quite easy



Me, later in the day (honestly)

We bid his royal Smellyness and Angie fairwell the next day and thought we´d pop over to Isle Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua as it was supposed to be good and the biggest volcanic island in freshwater or some such thing. Anyway, en route, yours truly got pulled over by a fat cop for (wait for it...) crossing the white line in the middle of the road. He was dealing with some minor bump/accident thing by the side of the road as I approached and overtook the slow van in front of me.

Because he was pulling vehicles over left, right and centre, I just assumed it was one of those annoying checks where they look at your documents, grumble a bit and then wave you on dismissively. He first asked for my documents and feeling cheeky, tried to casualy hand him the 150-odd bits of paper I´d just accumulated at the border, but when he saw that, he screamed ´licencio licencio!' or something. Oh whatever, so I handed Mr Grumpy my International Driving Licence as it was on the top of the pile so he took this and scribbled out a little yellow ticket which he gave to me.

´Er, what the f%ck is this?´I asked to which he mimed his way through my offence, crossing the central line and shaking his head somberly and wagging his fat finger. Thinking, 'bollocks, I should have given him one of my fake licences´I attempt to give him one but he walks away holding up my licence shouting ´esta esta!' Arse, thinks I so I follow him as even if I did want to pay the 300 Cordonas fine (which surprisingly I didn´t) I had no idea where to pay or how to get my licence back. I got off the bike and shouted at him and started walking towards him but he back off quickly and jumped into his police car and sped off. Well I never! Not to worry, I´ve never actually used the International Driving Licence for anything and have a scanned copy anyway.

After quite an expensive ferry crossing, we rode round the north side of the island which was all dirt. (It was only later on that we found out there was a paved road round the south of the island!). It was pleasant enough but after looking at the black volcanic ash beaches, the towels stayed firmly in the panniers and we headed back to the mainland for Granada for a night. Granada is quite a nice colonial place but still feeling like I need to make up for lost time in Colombia, it was off the a small town just before the Honduras border the following day.